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WSU Undergraduate Education UCORE

For Faculty & Advisors /

Advising Students

For Advisors

Robert Shoenberg, author of Why Do I Have to Take This Course? (2005), argues that general education (for WSU: UCORE) requirements are not “hurdles to jump over or courses to be gotten out of the way, but rather the educational journey of a lifetime, the base on which to build a life as well as earn a living.” But students do not inherently know this when they arrive at WSU. It is up to us – university leadership, faculty, advisors, and staff – to create and sustain this cultural shift.

If you are an advisor looking for information on UCORE, you may find information in the “For Students” section of these UCORE pages useful to you as well. Below we hope to address your most common questions about UCORE. For additional questions, clarification, and strategies for communicating with students about UCORE, contact the UCORE Director, Clif Stratton.

What is UCORE?

WSU’s University Common Requirements course sequence, required of all incoming first-year and transfer students, is designed to help students acquire broad knowledge of the world to complement their major programs of study. By exposure to multiple disciplines and methods of inquiry, students will develop intellectual and civic competencies, practical skills, and the ability to apply knowledge and skills in real world settings.

With sustained emphasis on critical and creative thinking, information literacy, communication, integration and application of knowledge, UCORE prepares students to address diverse, complex issues and to act as responsible, informed citizens. They won’t be an expert in any single UCORE course or area, but they will graduate from WSU with the tools needed to seek out necessary information; interpret, apply, and share it; and make reasoned and ethical judgements on a wide array of issues we face today and in the future. In short, students will develop the capacity for adaptability and lifelong learning in a complex, diverse, and rapidly changing world.

Inherent personal enrichment and fulfillment aside, employers who seek to drive innovation and change also highly value these qualities in their employees and leaders. They continue to demand that we graduate students who are clear communicators, collaborative problem solvers, and ethical and informed decision-makers. Help fulfill WSU’s land-grant mission of sending curious, engaged, and motivated graduates into our communities by imparting to students the intrinsic value of a well-rounded university education.

How do UCORE courses relate to the WSU Learning Goals?

Courses in the UCORE curriculum are explicitly designed to engage students in meeting WSU’s undergraduate learning goals. Students can expect that every UCORE course they take will at a minimum help them cultivate and develop the following skills: critical and creative thinking, information literacy, and communication. Depending on the designation, UCORE courses will also help students gain competency in understanding diversity, scientific literacy, quantitative reasoning, and integrative and applied learning.

How can I communicate the value of UCORE to students?

UCORE’s value is not often immediately obvious to students. Advisors are critical in moving students away from thinking about UCORE (or really any graduation requirement) as simply a box to check and instead toward thinking of UCORE as an experience to embrace for the purposes of exploration, intellectual growth, and the acquisition and development of broadly-applicable skills. As the American Association of Colleges & Universities reports, employers frequently cite adaptability, innovation, and broad engagement with the world as more important than one’s chosen major. Consider the following strategies when advising students:

Communicate the post-graduation return on investment. Technological priorities and modes of operation constantly change. Employers want adaptable thinkers, not narrow ones. Encourage students to begin thinking about marketing themselves with WSU’s undergraduate learning outcomes in mind. 

Whenever possible, prioritize student interest and discovery over scheduling. Discuss with students their interests and goals. What are they curious about? What social, philosophical, scientific, or technological issues do they care about? Help them build a UCORE plan with those at the center.

Empower students to take ownership over their learning. UCORE offers a scaffolded set of skills and areas of knowledge. It is in large part up to students to chart courses that help them reach their intellectual goals. But they have to know that that is possible.

In what order should students fulfill UCORE requirements?

UCORE’s structure is intentionally designed to build capacity and develop skills over time. Additionally, most UCORE designations are offered at multiple levels (i.e. 100-400). Whenever possible, advise students to complete UCORE with the following guidelines in mind:

(A) Complete First-Year Experience [ROOT] & Foundational Competencies [QUAN], [WRTG], and [COMM] in their first year.

(B) Complete Ways of Knowing [BSCI], [PSCI], [SSCI], [ARTS], and [HUM] in first through third years at course levels appropriate to class standing (e.g. 2nd year students take 200-level course with [ARTS] designation to fulfill Inquiry in the Creative and Professional Arts).

(C) Complete Diversity applied learning [DIVR] requirement in first through fourth years at course levels appropriate to class standing (i.e. 1st year students take 100-level [DIVR] course, 3rd year students take 300-level [DIVR] course).

(D) Complete Integrative Capstone [CAPS] in fourth year.

Where can I find the UCORE graduation requirements?

Check out the WSU Graduation Requirements in the WSU catalog or in the student section of this site.

How do I know whether or not a course meets a UCORE requirement?

You can find a UCORE Course List in the student section of these webpages. In addition, you can search by UCORE category for UCORE classes offered in any one semester in the Office of the Registrar’s “Search the Schedules” page.

UCORE classes are all identified by a bracketed three- or four-letter abbreviation in the catalog as follows:

    • [ROOT] = Roots of Contemporary Issues
    • [QUAN] = Quantitative Reasoning
    • [WRTG] = Written Communication
    • [COMM] = Communication
    • [SSCI] = Inquiry in the Social Sciences
    • [HUM] = Inquiry in the Humanities
    • [ARTS] = Inquiry in the Creative and Professional Arts
    • [BSCI], [PSCI], [SCI] = Inquiry in the Natural Sciences
    • [DIVR] = Diversity
    • [CAPS] = Integrative Capstone
What about transfer students?

The direct transfer associate’s degree (DTA) will satisfy all the requirements except for the Integrative Capstone [CAPS]. Students who transfer without a degree would meet requirements through course-by-course matches, as they do currently. Upper division programs that require specific courses as prerequisites to the major may need to develop more explicit advising pathways for prospective students, so that they take the appropriate course at the community college as part of the DTA.

Associate of Science Transfer (AST) degree holders (Track 1 and Track 2) have always had additional general education requirements to meet. With UCORE, AST holders must complete HISTORY 305, Roots of Contemporary Issues [ROOT], a second Communication course (either [COMM] or [WRTG]), the Diversity requirement [DIVR], and the Integrative Capstone [CAPS]. Thus, for AST degree holders, a total of four UCORE courses need to be completed at WSU.

Can an advisee take a CAPS course while studying abroad?

Effective Fall 2019, students must take CAPS courses in residence. “In residence” means a course either taught on a WSU campus or taught by WSU faculty, wherever the course may be located. Transfer and study abroad courses are not suitable for fulfilling the capstone requirement. If you have an advisee that plans to study abroad during their senior year, be sure that they complete their CAPS requirement during the Spring or Summer of their Junior year, prior to the commencement of their study abroad program.

What if my department has specific UCORE requirements?

Many majors require specific courses for some of the UCORE categories. For example, Calculus is typically a required [QUAN] course for science and engineering majors. Or, a program may require a UCORE [CAPS] be taken in the major. In these cases, students need to take the UCORE course required by their major.

How many UCORE courses can be taken within the major?

While students may take as many UCORE-designated courses within their major as they wish, they may only complete up to three (3- or 4-credit) UCORE requirements with­in their chosen major. This will allow students, as an example, to use Sociology 101 to fulfill a [SSCI] as well as a requirement within the major. For the purpose of this limitation, three 1-credit courses may be combined to count for a single 3-credit course.